July 18th, 2013
By Kellie Stoll
Fundraising is well underway for the proposed installation of artificial turf fields at Champlain Valley Union High School. To date, the Turf Fields Committee has received a combination of donations and pledges totaling almost $190,000. The total cost for installation of two artificial turf fields, with bleachers and lights on one of them, is estimated at $2.6 million. Many in the community are not familiar with problems regarding the existing grass fields and have questions regarding the artificial turf—why it is being proposed, exactly what makes up an artificial turf field, the cost and the benefits.
The current grass fields are in need of substantial repair due to poor drainage in the clay soil, which leaves the fields virtually unusable after only an “average” amount of rainfall. This is well-established fact, supported by the Gale Report commissioned by the school board in 2011. This report also concludes that with five playing fields, the school is currently two to three fields short just to meet current demand. The cost to repair each grass field is estimated at $300,000. Repairing the current fields would mean taking each field offline while work is being done for at least one year—leaving the school even more shorthanded with regard to field availability. Perhaps even more important to note, is the fact that the school board currently has zero dollars budgeted for these repairs. In other words, there is currently no other proposal under consideration nor money being reserved to address this problem.
So why is installation of artificial turf the best solution? There are many reasons, the biggest of which is that it’s simply an investment in the future of our children. In keeping with the CVU mission to promote the pursuit of excellence, the goal of the Turf Fields Committee is to provide facilities that encourage and enable all CVU students to realize their physical and athletic potential. These facilities should be safe, sustainable, accessible to all and a source of school pride. The condition of the current fields puts severe limitations on which groups can use them and how often. Turf fields will open up CVU’s “outdoor classroom,” allowing more time outside, more physical movement for all and equitable playing time for all teams and clubs at all levels.
The project not only enhances the school mission of excellence, but it’s also a responsible environmental choice. There is fairly complex engineering behind the construction of a turf field, most of which is not visible above the surface. Just below the artificial grass fiber is a layer of granular fill made with recycled tires, which is meant to resemble natural turf. It is estimated that 1.5 million tires are not in landfills today as a result of the 6000+ artificial turf fields installed in the U.S. Artificial turf also eliminates emissions related to mowing and eliminates related pollution runoff from fertilizer and/or pesticides used on a grass field. It should also be noted at the end of its useful life (estimated at 10-15+ years) the artificial turf “carpet” materials are fully recyclable.
Finally, the installation of artificial turf represents the most economically sound solution. As noted above, it will cost $1.5 million to repair the current grass fields and best case would take 5-7 years as they are taken off line one at a time for repair. Due to the clay soil and terraced layout of the fields, it cannot be guaranteed that repair or maintenance will provide a permanent fix. While artificial turf requires some ongoing maintenance, the cost is minimal compared to what is needed for the grass fields. Having consistent field conditions that can be used year round, in all weather conditions, also provides a unique income-producing opportunity for CVU. Other areas schools with artificial turf estimate, conservatively, that they receive more than $25,000 per year in fee income as a result of renting out the field to various clubs and camps, hosting jamborees and championship tournaments, etc. The demand for these playing surfaces exceeds what other area schools are able to provide, so it is obvious CVU would enjoy the same benefit. This type of opportunity not only allows the fields to be self-sustaining from a maintenance expense perspective, but also allows area restaurants, stores, gas stations and other businesses to benefit from those attending these high profile and highly attended events.
It is worth repeating that there are currently no budgeted funds to address this issue. The volunteer turf committee has come up with a solution that will meet the needs of the entire community and the time is now to come together and make this project a reality. If you would like to learn more, or see how you can help be a part of the solution, visit http://www.cvuhs.org/cvu-turf-project.html. The turf committee also welcomes your questions and comments and encourages you to contact us at [email protected]
Kellie Stoll is a member of the Turf Fields Committee and a Hinesburg resident.